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18 Iyar, 5782 - May 19, 2022 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Journey From Leil Haseder To Kabolas HaTorah

by HaRav Shlomo Brevda


A Shmuess Delivered By HaRav Shlomo Brevda on Chol Hamoed Pesach 5753 At Beis Haknesses "Tiferes Shlomo", Har-Nof, Yerushalayim. We first published it the same year.

Part I

Akdomus Milin

I know very well that on Chol Hamoed, people want to hear divrei Torah that gladden the heart. Nevertheless, I have been taught by my teachers zt'l, that in these latter generations the community lacks understanding of even the most basic foundations of Torah. We cannot allow ourselves to speak to an audience about ordinary, pleasant ideas. After all, a person's desire to hear sweet and pleasant things really stems from the body's craving for sweet and pleasant things.

The body should not be a person's boss, controlling what he hears—the neshamah should be boss. In order to make the neshamah happy one has to say true—not necessarily sweet—things. Of course, in midyear one says them more sharply and on Yom Tov more pleasantly. We are living in times of emergency; we are getting near to the complete Geulah. It's our hope that we are now in the last stage, which is also the hardest. There is no time for things that are merely entertaining with nothing else to them. Everything we speak about has to have a beneficial and a practical influence on the listeners.

Now, one day after going out of Egypt, the Torah obliges us to count Sefiras HaOmer and the chachamim extended the obligation to our time, even though there is no Beis Hamikdash. The Sefer Hachinuch in mitzvas Sefiras HaOmer gives a simple reason for this mitzva. The root of the mitzva, he explains, is the most important event in the history of heaven and earth and in the history of Klal Yisroel. Undoubtedly, this event was the receiving of Torah from heaven. Hashem made a condition that if Yisroel accept the Torah, well and good, the world would continue to exist. If not, then Hashem would return the world to void and emptiness. There is no reason for the existence of world without our acceptance of Torah min haShomayim.

"Remember the Torah of Moshe, my servant, which I commanded him at Chorev, to all of Yisroel, laws and judgments... Behold I am sending you Eliyahu Hanovi... and he will return the hearts of fathers to sons... lest I come and smite the land with destruction."

The explanation of these pesukim is as follows: I will send Eliyahu Hanovi, says Malachi at end of nevi'im, and he will return the hearts of fathers to sons... he will bring back the foundations of emunah.

There has to be a return to the foundations of Toras Moshe as commanded at Chorev, Sinai. That means returning to those laws and judgments without any concessions, without revealing facets of Torah that stray from halacha, without resort to "heteirim" etc. etc.

If Bnei Yisroel, both fathers and sons, return to faith and to acceptance of the yoke of Torah as HaKodosh Boruch Hu commanded at Sinai, there will be a Geula Shleima. If not, cholila, Hashem will come and smite the world R'l — cheirem — with destruction. So, the acceptance of Torah and the fulfilling of Torah, through both learning and actions, is the very existence of the world and is the neshamah of Klal Yisroel.


The Chinuch says that counting the days to matan Torah is in order to demonstrate in our nefesh the great yearning for the day we received Torah, our source of life. The day after coming out of Mitzrayim—out from eternal slavery to eternal freedom—we stand, in the words of the Chinuch, "like a servant who longs for the shade, who always counts, when will the time he yearns for come and he will go free?"

Do you hear? Just a day after yetzias Mitzrayim—for the only true freedom is kabolas HaTorah! It's impossible to become free from being a servant of the body and the yetzer hora without Torah.

The day after going out from slavery to freedom, all Bnei Yisroel say, "When will I go out to true freedom — to kabolas HaTorah?" Each individual counts with yearning. Just like an imprisoned man who is told that in fifty days time he is to go free — he counts each day impatiently.

In the Tikunei Zohar Chodosh we find a reason why we went out of Mitzrayim so quickly, in a way which enabled the Mitzrim to chase after us. Since it was HaKodosh Boruch Hu who took us out, why did it have to be in haste?

The Tikunei Zohar explains that when a slave is freed from his master, he may have to pass through gates where he'll be stopped and asked, "Do you have permission to go?" If he has a document to prove that he has been freed, he can go peacefully. He need have no fears, for all he has to do is to take out his shtar and go on. If he has no shtar however, he runs.

Although we went out of Mitzrayim, says the Tikunei Zohar Chodosh, we didn't have a shtar —our Torah hakedoshah—so we had to go out in haste and the Mitzrim could come after us. The future geula on the other hand, which is obviously after matan Torah, will be "not in haste...not fleeing." We will then be able to go with peace of mind.

This explanation fits also the words of the Chinuch who writes that after yetzias Mitzrayim we still hope for kabolas haTorah each year, for without it we are not truly bnei chorin. If we understand the above and actually live these days in anticipation that on Shavuos, haboh oleinu letova, we will merit an abundance of Torah for the coming year, then we will also listen patiently to the important lessons which follow.

First Step: Pray Like an Oni

In Shulchan Oruch, Hilchos Tefillah (98), the Mechaber writes, "He should daven in the way of tachanunim, like a pauper standing at the door." The Sha'arei Teshuva writes in the name of the Talmidei Ha'Ari HaKodosh, that on saying the tefillah, "Ezras" every morning, a tefillah which speaks about yetzias Mitzrayim, when reaching the words "ozer dalim" towards the end, one should think that he is an oni begging at the door, even if he is really an oshir. (In siman 66 the Sha'arei Teshuva brings this at length.)

Let's stop and think for a moment. What is an oni? How do we determine which members of a tsibur are aniyim and which are ashirim?

After all, without food and drink a man will be neither an oni nor an oshir—he will be dead. Without clothes, a man cannot live or go out among people; he can't even be by himself. Neither can a man live without a roof over his head. Since an oni isn't dead but alive, this implies that he eats every day, that he has clothes and that he has somewhere to sleep. So who then, is an oni?

The fact is that people have decided that a man who has wealth, money and property of his own, and who can buy food, a house, clothes, and the like according to his own wishes, is called an oshir. On the other hand, a man who has nothing of his own—"les lei migarmei klum" as Chazal hakedoshim describe him—is an oni.

And how does the oni live if he possesses nothing? Others give him what he needs. The ashirim give him food or money to buy food. They give him clothes and a house so that he can sleep and live. So why is he called an oni? Because his position is such that if they won't give him anything, he would die of hunger, whereas an oshir has enough to eat and enough stores of food, even if nobody gives him.

I'll illustrate this with a moshol: A bochur gets engaged; a fine bochur, a lamdan and a tzaddik. His father-in-law makes the following promise: "You can rent whichever apartment you want, even a luxury one. I promise to pay the rent every month. You can buy whatever you like from the grocer and butcher. I'll pay it all. As for clothes, you can buy even silk if you want. I'll pay. I'll also pay for your gas, telephone and electricity. It may cost thousands a month but I'll pay it all, on one condition: every week come and tell me a dvar Torah. It should be a good one, deep and comprehensive."

The other avreichim are envious of their chaver. He has "two tables" as the saying goes, both this world and the next. However, this avreich complains to his chavrusa though, that nobody in the kollel is worse off than he is. He has everything — the only thing is that he is dependent, tied to his shver.

"If he doesn't like the dvar Torah one week, I'm out!" he says. "I could die of hunger, so don't be jealous of me! If he would put the money in the bank and give it to me, then you could be envious. Then I could say to my shver, `You come and tell me a dvar Torah every week!' "(Today, bochurim ask for money in the bank!)

This is a true moshol. It shows us that whoever is dependent on others to give him everything is called an oni and whoever has his own means is an oshir.

Morai verabosai, how should we describe the real situation of every man in this world? Man is an oni! Each moment of his life, he depends on the kindnesses of Hashem, yisborach shemo—even for the power to breathe. Chazal say on the posuk, "kol haneshama", on every neshima, every breath we have to give praise. If for one moment, R'l, Hashem stops giving breath, there is no man anymore.

Similarly, who gives a man all his money, all his property? Hashem yisborach! Who looks after this property that it won't spoil and won't be stolen? Only the King of Kings!

Who gives the body its strength? Only HaKodosh Boruch Hu! Intellect, understanding, wisdom—they come only from HaKodosh Boruch Hu! If Hashem stops giving for one moment, then there is nothing!

As the posuk says, "He sets chachamim backwards."

When Vespasian said to Rabban Yochonon ben Zakai, "Ask for whatever you want." Chazal say that Rabban Yochonon should have asked him not to destroy the Beis Hamikdash then but to leave it another few years, thus giving them a chance to make peace with Rome. Instead Rabban Yochonon said, "Just give me Yavneh and its chachamim." For one brief moment Hashem withheld siyata deShmaya from Rabban Yochonon and he said, "Give me Yavneh." One moment without siyata deShmaya!

So what is a man in this world? An oni.

And what is the greatest problem of man in this world? That he doesn't know it.

Either he was never taught this principle, or else he forgets it a hundred times a day. A man who remembers that he depends every moment for his very life and existence only on HaKodosh Boruch Hu, that he has no independent power, is such a man makpid on his kovod? Does he get angry? Does he speak brazenly and proudly? How is it then, that we speak proudly?

"Tachanunim yedaber rosh," says the posuk in Mishlei. Someone who remembers that he is a pauper always speaks tachanunim, he always begs, he knows that he is dependent on Hashem's kindness.

But someone who thinks he is an oshir, that he is independent, oy va'avoy! He speaks to Hashem be'azus, boldly and brazenly: "Oshir yedaber azus."

What then, are the Talmidei Ha'Ari, based on the words of the Beis Yosef, z'l, telling us when they say to daven like an oni? In what state can a man daven?

If at "ozer dalim" in "Ezras" he stops for a moment and thinks, "What am I really? An oni! A rosh! I have no independent power—not even for a moment. I have no zechus! I am nothing!

"Now I'm approaching Hashem to ask, `Give me chochmah, binah, parnossa, the strength to do teshuva, refuah, yeshu'oh, for myself and for all of Klal Yisroel, build Yerushalayim, es tzemach Dovid, Shema koleinu...'"

Only such a man can daven. Only such a tefillah is acceptable. If, at "ozer dalim" he doesn't think that he is a rosh, then, when he subsequently stands up to daven, he is an "oshir yedaber azus."

"What do you want from Me?" says Hashem. "You already have riches, strength, wisdom. What do you want from Me? A little more? For that you'll have to go elsewhere. I don't want the tefillos of such people."

Chazal say, in the first perek of Rosh Hashanah, that every year which is "rosh"—poor—at the beginning, is "mis'asher"—enriched—at the end.

Rashi explains: "Rosh" means that Yisroel make themselves "roshim" as it says "tachanunim yedaber rosh." If, on Rosh Hashanah, Yisroel feel that they are roshim and dalim with no independent strength and no zechus, and that Hashem gives them everything, then, with such tefillos, they can win their case and the end of the year will be rich. If we don't pray like "roshim" you can understand by yourselves what the outcome will be.

End of Part 1


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